• Oman needs more private investment in health sector
  • Investment needs for specialised tertiary care
  • Sultanate is developing a medical city to the north of Muscat

Oman’s health care system needs private health investors to provide expensive specialised tertiary care, said Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Qasmi, director of planning & studies at the Ministry of Health speaking at MEED’s Oman Projects Forum in Muscat on 26 October.

“What we are facing now is non-communicable diseases and coronary conditions,” said Al-Qasmi. “We don’t need specialised health services only in capital, but we need to promote and encourage the private sector to set up specialised centres in regions, especially far from the capital.”

The ministry’s largest project is a medical city located between Muscat and Batinah North and South governorates. It will include training hospitals in collaboration with the Sultan Qaboos University and the new Oman University. The ministry is still studying the model for the city, but hopes to attract half the investment for the private sector.

The Ministry of Health provides 90 per cent of health care in the Sultanate, while other government entities provide another 5 per cent, leaving just 5 per cent for the private sector.

The figures could change as the Health Ministry is reformed and moves from a provider to a regulator. It is envisaging a system of health insurance, to take funding pressure off the ministry. A study, with South Korean cooperation, is waiting for cabinet approval to be implemented.

“Sooner or later health insurance is a must, to improve quality and take the burden off the government financing system,” says Al-Qasmi. “We have a lot of big companies providing health insurance, but it is haphazard, not systematic. First it will be mandatory for big companies, then also for expats. Then we will review the first phase for expats, and decide whether to apply to it to Omanis or not. There are 1.7 million expats, and they should be covered in the first phase, to encourage the private sector to come and build hospitals and specialised health centres, by guaranteeing patients.”

Healthcare currently costs 3 per cent of Oman’s GDP. The proportion will need to increase as the Omani population increases and ages.

The ministry is also investing in technology to give all patients unique numbers, and link up health care providers to avoid duplication of treatment.